Christie’s said it is facing growing criticism from academics and the wider public over the legitimacy of its auction pieces on what it called ideological grounds.
The issue came to the fore recently when a 15th-century Persian Quran manuscript was sold as part of Christie’s regular “Art of the Islamic and Indian Worlds” auction for £7 million ($9.3 million) — the highest price for a copy of the Quran ever.
Estimated to sell for £600,000-£900,000, the copy was one of a number of ancient art pieces from the Islamic world to fetch huge sums at that auction.
A Kufic section of the Quran from the collection of the late mayor of Jeddah and art-lover Dr. Mohamed Said Farsi — the man credited with turning the city into an “open-air museum” — sold for roughly £300,000.
A single sheet from a Kufic-script Quran, believed to hail from Yemen, sold for over £18,500.
Christie’s has denied that any of the data-x-items sold at its auctions were illegitimately acquired. “We are mindful that there are nuanced and complex debates around cultural property and wish to listen and engage appropriately,” it said in a statement, Arab News reported.
“However, we are also concerned that there has been a rise in unfounded accusations, spread far and fast on social media, that question the legitimate and legal exchange of these objects and collecting areas. As a marketplace we should all be concerned and ensure that the debate is balanced.”
The debate over cultural property, colonialism and the West’s imperial history has come to the forefront of public consciousness since the Black Lives Matter movement engulfed much of the world.